Emo’s, Thursday, Nov 20th
had wanted to see Captured! By Robots the last time they came
to town last year and didn’t make it. The concept of
a robot band was highly intriguing to me. My interest was
satisfied when I caught their Ten Commandments inspired performance
story goes like this. Jbot, the human part of the band, made
some instrument-playing robots because he did not like human
musicians. The robots came to life and enslaved Jbot and now
he tours the country, forced to play his self-described sucky
songs by his human-hating creations. For reasons not made
clear, this time around, the show revolves around certain
scenes from the epic movie The Ten Commandments. Dressed as
Moses, Jbot traded insults with the guitar and drum robots,
which were dressed as Ramses and Nefertiti respectively. An
original song accompanied each featured scene from the movie,
the music ran the gamut from heavy metal/grindcore to funky
hip-hop. A standout for me was the song called “The
Nefertiti Sex Jam.” Although I’m pretty sure that
the guitar/bass and drum robots were actually playing themselves,
some of the other ‘bots seemed to be there for decoration.
Did I mention that Jbot looked downright creepy with his black
mask with bulging disembodied antenna eyes? He definitely
looked like a freaking corpse with the Moses beard he had
Emo’s, Thurs, Dec 4th
After chatting with Crack Pipe/doorman Ray, I spun around
to view the Krumbums in their full blue tri-hawked glory.
Loud, fast and Exploited. There ya go. I was more interested
in watching three chicks get bodily carried out of the club
by various bouncers, one of whom came back in to reveal a
shiner. I don’t have a clue as to what happened but
all I can say is: Punk Rock!
O.K., back to Beerland.
Emo’s, Wed. Nov. 19th
I have only been a fan of Firewater for the
last year. I was turned on to the 1997 release “Get
off the Cross, We Need More Wood for the Fire” just
over a year ago. Firewater is fronted by front man Tod A.
who used to front the band Copshootcop and is an amazing vocalist
as well as songwriter. After Copshootcop’s demise, Tod.A.
took the conceptual and lyrical styles of Copshootcop, rebuilt
the whole foundation of his songwriting and took it one step
further. I’ve been asked how to describe Firewater to
a lot of people. The truth is Firewater live and Firewater
on record are two different monsters. On record it has the
eerie feel of the weirder, creepier Tom Waits stuff and at
times reminds me of early Birthday Party and Leonard Cohen.
They even give shout outs to Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen as
influences on the 1st album. Now when these songs are presented
live, the songs become more stripped down and at times makes
you feel as if you have stumbled into Larry Flint’s
perverted stage version of “Fiddler on the Roof”.
The songs come across more like a drunken sing-along live
at a punk rock gypsy campfire séance. Firewater’s
instrumentation is not of standard rock flavor, consisting
of accordions, horns and violins as well drums, guitar, keyboards,
and Tod. A on bass.
The six-piece band hails from NYC and this
is the first tour for them in 2 years - in support of their
new record “The Man on the Burning Tightrope”.
Quite a few people were out this Wednesday evening to check
out Tod. A and the boys. I felt as Firewater was re-writing
the soundtrack to “Sante Sangre” right before
my very eyes. Weird dark Circus music, whiskey soaked Gypsy
punk and a lot of interesting renditions of the songs from
the first album re-worked but still effective even without
On a real quick note, one of the cool things
I saw at their merch stand was a parody of the Chick publication’s
bible comics that they had a friend do for them. The comic
stars the band and has them being taken on a journey of atheism
and scientology with Ron Hubbard as their tour guide. If you
didn’t get a copy of the comic at the show you can maybe
score one from their website WWW.FIREWATER.TV , where you
can also here the new album for free.
I had few fellow writers who didn’t
get it or felt that Firewater were more of a party band. All
I can say is go out and grab a copy of the first record, hear
the difference and build your Firewater collection from there.
And I will say this, Firewater is more than just an amazing
band in this writers opinion, just like the key lime pie in
“Natural Born Killers”, its an acquired taste.
A taste that only some of are us lucky enough to enjoy.
With intentions of not really giving a shit
about who was playing before seeing Agnostic Front, I hit
the door at Emo's knowing that at least one of the bands would
be worth checking out. My inside source said Ringworm needed
to be seen. And they were, as soon as they started, the KD's
dropped and I was fully into what this old-schooler can only
call good ol' hardcore thrash. So what the fuck would you
expect to see on tour with a band like A.F., some suck ass
lops? Not only did these cats rock but they were totally respectful,
calling out the old men of A.F. in the middle of the set,
working the crowd getting panties wet and dicks hard.
I never asked them but for me there was a
definite Cro Mags influence, no high rift shit but plenty
of hard bass, heavy drums and some hard ass vocals. Playing
with them was a guy from Keel Haul (watch for a future disk
review). These guys are on the list to see every time they
hit the Lone Star City.
Off the Wall Tour
Emo’s, November 26th
It is unfortunate that this tour rolled through
Austin on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I guess most
people were out of town or had other plans, because the crowd
at Emo’s was small and slightly lethargic. The first
band to take the stage, Western Waste, musically was alright,
but the vocals were less than perfect. Maybe the lead singer
was losing his voice or was having a bad night. Hey, it happens,
but it sounded like he was holding back. It seemed like he
was trying to extinguish the songs with his lackluster enthusiasm.
Except for a hand full of people, nobody really seemed to
be paying attention to Western Waste at all. Maybe next time
The Queers performed with a little more gusto
and got the crowd moving a little more. Their sing-along tunes
were really what this crowd needed to get them involved in
the show instead of just sitting slumped on the sidelines.
Unfortunately I missed TSOL’s set, which sucks because
this is the band I really wanted to see. I did catch The Suicide
Machines from Detroit, and they actually impressed me. Lead
singer Jason Navarro moves like a human pogo stick. This boy
creates an aura of energy around him that washes over you
and propels you into a state of motion. And who says punks
can’t dance? A dozen young dancing punks performed on
stage right along side Jason, proving punks got moves all
their own. Too bad nobody took pictures it was quite a sight
“Art disappears as society thrashes
in reproducible culture.”-Jean Baudrillard
We knew they were a garagey three-piece. We
knew the singer was a woman who’d be likened to Siouxsie,
Yoko or Chrissie Hynde. We knew they were popular (not that
we should hold that against them).
There are pounds of pulp printed to the effect
that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are good good good.
Entry level assessment deals out the easy
to believe female singer card. A black queen of sorts with
a penchant for appearing similar to the lineage who have come
before her; clearing a space in the mind of the fan.
Just as basic is the belief that thanks to
the hype the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have success at their fingertips.
Their stellar reception a product of the mainstream independent
press (Jumbo Shrimp, anybody?) in its cough cool glossy, insipidly
insightful, flashing giant arrow points HERE to what-you-should-be-attuned-to
demeanor. A media instructed “choice” similar
to putting bumpers on the gutters at the bowling alley.
Considering the commodity “choice”
has become, it’s possible that this “choice”
is a construct similar to the 1960’s, when Madison Ave
ad-men turned 7-Up into an “uncola” to get the
hippies to buy it instead of the “conservative”
If we give the public the benefit of the doubt (and that’s
risky) perhaps they too have been wooed by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s
current choices in the intuition of creation. A combination
of the “successful” ingredients. Or, good cooks
with good recipes. The specific concept is Academic art: the
study and use of a school/style to create an image in said
style that is already established amongst the public. First
of all, this is not devaluation. This is a placement of a
specific value on a specific set of choices made by the band
when they picked up their instruments and started writing
songs. I call experts of Academic art “good studies”.
They know that which wins over a public. And this is not a
contrived plan. I liken it to the creative intuition that
yields a song or style that presses the buttons of an audience
who is ready to receive; an audience who is prepared, like
a child awaiting a fresh-baked cookie, to enjoy the culmination
of all the ingredients.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs culled their recipe from all over the
place. There was punk, new wave, no wave, R and B, blues,
emo--all wrapped up in an energetic show. Personally, I tapped
my feet and swayed to the grooves they played.
Karen O’s singing is most reminiscent
of L7’s front woman, Donita Sparks. You know the voice
she gets when she sings “Shove”? That bobcat,
real throaty coarse delivery. Staying to the northwest, she
reminded me of the Gits’ own, Mia Zapata. More obvious
and definitely to be thrown out in an obligatory way was the
whispering Siouxsie or Stevie Nicks elements, (you pick the
radio station--I don’t care). She even hit a quasi Billie
holiday thing, not near the quality of Billie, but emulating
the croon of love songs for the sedated.
The band was simple: guitar and bass. The
drummer had nice tom intros and open high hat splashes that
started up the beat. Despite the bare naked new wave style,
the band seemed to have an electro beat happening. As if the
songs could be played by Midwest Product or We. Ambient, minimal,
and hypnotic. This was due in part to the guitarist playing
loops on a small keyboard or looping his slide guitar sound
to create a third voice in the band. It worked to fill what
could have been an open-Garage rock void. A lot of the guitar
work and the songs were structured from straight picked bass
lines played on a Stratocaster, leaving the years of similar
music to hopefully flesh out in the listener’s ear.
I had a thought while watching the Yeah Yeah
Yeahs: that we’ve listened to enough music to have the
surprise not be about how we fill the space, but the surprise
is that the space doesn’t need to be filled.
There were parts where classic, standard chord
progression was used. As for notes that come in between, even
the most untrained listener can derive how they will play
out. In the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ tunes the space was taken
into a percussive, nonchalant filler that testifies to the
ingrained nature of the whole form of song structure. This
allusion to progressions, as if we had seen a bas relief of
them staring us in the face from a million albums before,
is all that is needed to bring the music back to the person
who has logged time hearing “Louie Louie”. Popular
music memories aiding popular music stance. The formula works,
leaving arbitrary, newly selected notes and sounds to fill
in the occasionally and deliberately disjointed guitar riffs.
The backbeat holds your attention while the space in between
becomes the fusion of Mom’s chocolate-chip cookies and
a can of Campbell’s chicken noodle.
The show was absolutely packed. The crowd
impressed the hell out of the band who seemed genuinely surprised
to see such enthusiastic response. And I was too. I had this
show pegged for a transparent, herd-like following. This still
could be the case, I’m just saying that given the state
of things, is it a crime against individuality? This herd
seemed in the know of the material and ready to sing along.
And last I checked that was a sign of being good at what you
do and making people happy.
Considering their press, the hype, and the
look, I will say the Yeah Yeah Yeahs pull it off.